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Gibbes: Toner must beat O'Connell at own game


 Devin Toner. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Devin Toner. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Devin Toner. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

LEINSTER forwards coach Jono Gibbes wants to see Devin Toner take what he learned from Paul O'Connell in the Six Nations and turn it against the great man at what will be a sold-out Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

"I think he's incredibly lucky that he got to play alongside Paul and feed off him. The way he approaches the game at second row is a massive benefit for Dev to work with him," said Gibbes.

"It will be interesting now that they have to turn around this week and have to smash each other."

There is no time for Toner to dwell on his Six Nations line-out supremacy and increased carrying quota. With a fit and firing O'Connell guaranteed for one of the World Cup slots in 2015, the Meath man will have to fend off stiff competition to retain his Ireland jersey.

"Dev acquitted himself really well and that's a real positive because I thought Dan Tuohy played really well when he got his chance, Donnacha Ryan is going to come back in fit now," said Gibbes.

"We've got Macca (Mike McCarthy) here, who's doing great stuff. It is a real positive for Ireland moving forward that they've got those kind of locks stepping up."

The trust Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt invested in Toner was reflected in the game time accumulated by the towering lock forward, starting all five rounds and playing through all but six minutes against Scotland.

In fact, the way Toner came through to take the number four jersey from the injured Donnacha Ryan is one of a number of cases where Munster men will have automatic motivation.

"They don't need any more fuel, do they?" reasoned Gibbes.

"I actually don't think that's really relevant. The Six Nations is over. The story really is two teams in front of a sell-out crowd two points apart on the table and not many games left, and they happen to be biggest rivals.

"I think that's the story," he said, neatly sidestepping the verbal bombs detonated by Munster coach Rob Penney when he referred to Leinster as "the Six Nations champions" at the weekend.

"Munster have lost three games this year. We have been going okay. But, as the fifth round loss down there reflects, you really need to be right on top of things," said Gibbes.

"They are very aggressive, and the way they get behind the ball and physically commit to things means we need to be ready to go on Saturday."